Do Hydrocolloid Patches *Really* Work on Pimples? (Plus, How to Use Them Correctly)

hydrocolloid patches for acne category

Chances are you’ve seen photos of people wearing pimple patches on Instagram. These clear, spot-covering stickers have been gaining popularity for the past few years, but have been especially prevalent in 2020, as many of us are dealing with maskne.

So, what exactly are they?

Pimple or acne patches are made of hydrocolloid, which is a sticky, gel-like material that is commonly used for wound healing at hospitals. (You may have also seen them in the First Aid aisle, packaged as blister bandages.)

The flexible material works by absorbing fluid from a wound while keeping the skin around it moist, which is key for speeding up the healing process. Used correctly and in the right circumstances, they can be highly effective.

When is the best time to use a pimple patch and how do you use them correctly?

By their very nature, hydrocolloid patches work best when there is an open lesion or wound to pull from. So, if you have a deep cyst that’s sitting under the surface of your skin or a closed comedone, simply slapping a pimple patch over it won’t likely do much for it. 

On the other hand, if you have an oozing spot that you’ve just picked (hey, it happens) or a juicy whitehead that is coming to a head, a pimple patch can help by draining any remaining fluid from the area and flattening the spot faster as a result. They can also help by creating a barrier to keep you from absentmindedly touching your face, which causes spots to linger longer. 

It’s important to note here that hydrocolloid patches don’t prevent new acne from forming. For that, you need a consistent skincare regimen that will likely consist of pore-clearing products with proven ingredients like retinol, salicylic and glycolic acid.

Bottom line: Think of them as a supplement to your existing acne arsenal and not a cure-all.

OK, so how do I use a pimple patch properly?

For starters, always apply them to clean, dry skin so they adhere properly to the spot(s). If your skin is oily or still damp from cleansing, it can cause the edges of the patch to lift and sometimes even slide off of your face while you’re sleeping. 

On that note, most pimple patches are meant to be worn for several hours at a time (which is why we like to apply them before bed). Luckily, there are so many discreet options to choose from that are barely detectable even in broad daylight. 

Last but not least (and because it bears repeating): The best time to use a pimple patch is when you have an open spot rather than a deep underground cyst. Once you have a freshly oozing pimple, don’t delay putting on a patch.

Jenny Jin Headshot Vertical 2023

Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...